‘Native America’: Perfect Intellectual Fare for Thanksgiving✮✮✮✮✮

In Season 1 of “Native America,” the PBS four-episode series left me wanting more–more information, more education and more episodes. What most people know about the Americas before the Europeans, is appallingly minute and what we learned in schools is sadly lacking. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving or a belated Indigenous Peoples Day?

In telling the story, the PBS series have used experts from universities, tribal elders, re-enactments, gorgeous footage from the Americas–soaring overhead shots and mesmerizing closeups and evocative illustrations, animations and CGI overlays. We go underground into newly discovered secret caves and channels and witness ceremonies never revealed to the outside world before.

From Caves to Cosmos,” look as what modern sciences says about who were America’s First People. It certainly wasn’t the Europeans. Can you imagine a world without horses first? The Americas more than 500 years ago had a form of communication through roads that crossed two continents. Items from 500 to a thousand miles away were traded (turquoise, birds and their feathers, chocolate).

Native Americans had a sophisticated way of thinking. Native Americans had the first democracy in the Americas and that form of government would influence how the US is governed today.

Further, consider that foods from the Americas, foods that were first domesticated by the Native Americans, now feed about 60 percent of the world’s population.

Cultures are connected by the concept of the cosmos related to the six directions.

Experts include:

  1. Patricia L. Crown, anthropologist, University of New Mexico
  2. Anna Curtenius Roosevelt, archaeologist, University of Illinois at Chicago
  3. Chris Davis, post-doctoral fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago
  4. Leigh Kuwanwisiwma: Hopi Cultural Preservation Office
  5. Ronald Wadsworth (Hopi)
  6. Jim Enote (Zuni): Executive Director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center
  7. Octavius Seowtewa (Zuni)
  8. Sergio Gómez Chávez, archeologist,  Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH)
  9. Alan Salazar (Chumash)
  10. Reginald Pagaling (Chumash)

Sites visited included:

  1. Ruins of Chaco (Hopi Indian) in New Mexico
  2. Caverna da Pedra Pintada, Pará State, Brazil (earliest art in the Americas)
  3. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Central Mexico
  4. Coastal waters of Southern California

“From Caves to Cosmos” first aired on 23 October 2018 on PBS. It is currently streaming at PBS.org.

“Nature to Nations”

The deep common belief is that there is a deep connection with nature and animals but in about 1150 first American democracy was formed. The Native American chiefs spoke with the Founding Fathers to consider making a democracy and Native Americans have the longest continuous democracy. While the Founding Father adopted the concept of democracy from the Native Americans, they forgot one of the guiding principles of the Native Americans: the responsibility to care for the earth.

Hiawatha belt tells a story about choosing between revenge and peace and the history of what is now upstate New York. The USA emblem includes 13 arrows, but the Haudenosaune emblem has five arrows, representing Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca.

The word wampum means white-shell beads and yet the Haudenosaune did not make the wampum beads. The beads are made by theMashpee Wampanoag out of shells from the quahog. Wampum belts were not money, but ways of representing memories or history and affirming alliances.

Though Alan Hunt and the late Beau Dick, we learn about the potlatch, a ceremony, and how the common phrase, “low man on the totem pole” is a mistaken interpretation.

Native American developed domesticated forms of corn, potato, tomato, peanuts, chocolate, beans and squash. Today, these crops comprise 60 percent of the world’s grown food. The wisdom of Native Americans include the planting together of the three sisters: corn, beans and squash.

Experts include:

  1. Sid Hill (Iroquois in French, but Haudenosaune in their own language
  2. John W. Rick, Stanford University
  3. Tito La Rossa, musician
  4. Ken Maracle, wampum belt (Cayuga/Haudenosaune).
  5. Tadodaho Sid Hill (Ononaga)
  6. Marcus Hendricks (Mashpee Wampanoag)
  7. Alan Hunt (Kwakwaka’wakw and Tlingit), chief.
  8. Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw) of British Columbia, Canada. Dick has since passed away (1955-2017)
  9. Teresa Ryan, University of British Columbia, fisheries scientist.
  10. Roger Cook (Mohawk)
  11. Mary E. Miller, art historian at Harvard University.
  12. Tom Porter (Mohawk)

Sites visited:

  1. Onondaga Lake
  2. Chavín de Huantar, Peru
  3. Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.

“Nature to Nations” first aired on 30 October 2018 on PBS. It is currently streaming at PBS.org.

“Cities of the Sky”

“Cities of the Sky” deals with cities that were laid out according to astronomical calculations. That includes a city that has long since disappeared, Cahokia, and sites that still exist and are being revealed by new technology: Teotihuacan in Mexico (Sun Pyramid) and Nanih Waiya in Mississippi state. Sports, chunkey, seems to have been popular in a time of unusual peace from 1100 to 1400.

The “Kingdoms of the Sky,” also looks at the Incas and Cuzco and how they built a network of roads and used cable bridges to connect them. The Mayans and the concepts behind the House of the Governor’s building orientation may be connected to another one in Cahokia. The Cahokians shared another practice with the Mayans: Human sacrifice. In the Cahokians, it was young women, buried facing the same direction. With the Mayans, it was defeated opponents.

Experts who appear:

  1. Les Williston (Choctaw)
  2. Terry Ben (Choctaw)
  3. Sarah E.  Baires, Eastern Connecticut State University
  4. Timothy R. Pauketat, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
  5. Harold Comby (Choctaw)
  6. Nawa Sugiyama, archaeologist
  7. David Carrasco, Harvard
  8. Ian Thompson (Choctaw)
  9. Norma S. Hickan (Choctaw)
  10. Noa Corcoran-Tadd, Harvard.
  11. Puma Quispe Singona (Quechua)

Sites visited:

  1. Cahokia, southern Illinois between East St. Louis and Collinsville
  2. Teotihuacan , Mexico
  3. Nanih Waiya, Winston County, Mississippi,
  4. Trail of Tears
  5. Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun) Cuzco, Peru
  6. Uxmal, Yucatán‎, Mexico

Sites visited:

“Cities of the Sky” first aired on 13 November 2018 and is currently streaming at PBS.org.

“New World Rising” 

When Columbus “discovered” the Americas, it was home to 100 million people with a history that went back 13,000 years. Native Americans existed in hundreds of nations with complex social and cultural networks. One person notes that in history books, the Native Americans are discussed in the past tense, but currently over two continents, 50 million are living.

This episode talks about how the horse first brought defeat to the Native Americans by European forces, but how some tribes adopted the horse and it became part of their culture. The Comanche, the Apache

But this episode is also about how some tribes fought against the European invasion. the spread of Catholicism, and other forms of genocide and imperialism.

The conquistadors in 1533 defeated the Incas who had the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, but the Incas didn’t totally vanish in the Andes. Some of the traditions of the Incas continue like the weaving of a suspension bridge, done annually. Over 8 million people still speak the language of the Incas, Quechua.

People appearing in this episode:

  1. Severin Fowles,Associate Professor. Anthropology, Barnard College
  2. Jhane Meyers (Comanche)
  3. David Carassco (Harvard)
  4. Diana Magaloni Kerpel, Director of the Program for Art of the Ancient Americas, LACMA
  5. Lindsey Montgomery, University of Arizona
  6. Jimmy W. Arterberry (Comanche)
  7. Morgan Tosee (Comanche)
  8. Puma Quispe Singona (Quechua)
  9. Victoriano Arizapana Huayhua (Quechua)

Sites visited:

  1. Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
  2. Templo Mayor, Mexico City

Death and defeat were brought largely through the introduction of new diseases:bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. About 90 percent of the populations in the Americas were defeated by pestilence. The mobility of the Comanches helped them avoid much of this problem, but the rise of the Comanches was through horses and when in 1874 the US military (under  Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie)  killed more than a thousand horses, Quanah Parker, surrendered in 1875.

“New World Rising” first aired on 13 November 2018 and is currently streaming at PBS.org.


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